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I am a dishonest debater.

I remember being around 7 years old and arguing with my brother. Some adult had told us in the past not to run when crossing the road, and I agreed. My brother, a little older and a little more rebellious, still wanted to run across the road. One day, he did, and I confronted him.

"Don't run across the road" I (proudly) stated.

"Why not?" he (reasonably) asked.

At this point I was in trouble. I had no idea why it was a bad idea (at least in my best recollection). I ended up spinning a convoluted argument about how he might run, suddenly realize in the middle of the road that there was a car coming, trip, and then get hit by a car.

It wasn't my proudest moment in debate, and I can tell you that I didn't convince him. I wish I had learned something all those years ago, but I don't think I have.

The thing is, I frequently catch myself doing this while arguing for something I truly believe is true. The debate could be about gun control, universal health care, or even just about what the best pizza topping is. Often I care deeply about the outcome of this debate at a policy level, and I truly want to convince the person on the other side of the debate, or at least open their mind.

When I'm at my best, I listen carefully to their arguments, and try to genuinely communicate that I"m listening and try to genuinely understand their point. That's the only way to build common ground between positions. Then I try to give my position as carefully as possible, without embellishing or exaggerating my argument just for rhetorical effect. This means that they hear the minimal core of my argument, which I hope is as convincing as possible. For example, 

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